The space next to me bristles with silence. The emptiness is palpable. Loss isn’t an absence after all. It is a presence. A strong presence next to me.
—Jackie Kay, from Trumpet
Excellent thought as I sit in the darkness on this early November morn.
Suzuki Roshi used to say that what was needed most in the monastery were people who were good at cleaning out the corners. The most perverting ideas are the ones that lie for years and years in the dark corners of our mind. Like spiders, they creep out while we are sleeping and spin their webs of illusion. Only when the mind is clean, in order, and uncluttered can the present moment be fully realized. If we hang onto past memories, trophies of our good-old-days, in time our mind and our home will be a museum instead of a place to encounter the present reality. The relationship between house cleaning, garden cleaning, and mental caretaking is not just symbolic. It is very direct.
Don’t pointless things have a place, too, in this far-from-perfect world?
The Feast of St. Catherine of Siena: She Spoke Boldly to Popes and Princes
by Susan Leem, associate producer
A chapel ceiling in Santa Sabina, Rome depicts St. Catherine receiving the heart of Christ, a sign of divine love and mercy. (photo: Lawrence Op/Flickr/cc by-nc-nd 2.0)
Amidst the fanfare for Prince William and Catherine Middleton, another Catherine was celebrated today during the couple’s wedding ceremony. Dr. Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London, celebrated the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena by quoting her during the homily.
After William and Kate exchanged their vows and her brother James gave a reading, the bishop shared this line from the saint, philosopher, and theologian:
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Saint Catherine was born the youngest (of a set of twins) of 25 children to an Italian family in 1397. She saw visions of Christ and experienced a “mystical marriage” with him that became the subject of art work from that period. She pursued a life of prayer, fasting, and penance as a Sister of Penance of St. Dominic despite her family’s objections.
Sister Nancy has said:
“In reading her letters, I found this feisty, spirited woman who was both affectionate and straightforward.”
St. Catherine of Siena sounds like a wonderful example for Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales, as well as all young women about to enter any relationship.
About the image: St. Catherine of Siena (photo: Lawrence Op/Flickr/cc by-nc-nd 2.0)
Advice from Christopher Hitchens
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
While Christopher Hitchens’ rhetoric can be bombastic and pompous at times, I appreciate the challenging and empowering ideas of this big thinker. His Vanity Fair article addressing his battle with cancer is quite moving, if not only for its firm grounding and keen sense of humor as he wrestles with his circumstances.
Reading again this oft-quoted passage from his 2001 book, Letters to a Young Contrarian, I’m reminded of the writer and polemicist’s strength and resolve, his ability to give good advice and challenge civility and social norms — for the better and for the worse:
“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
(via Against All Caligulas)
Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.
—Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Our humanity is not an attribute that we have received once and forever with our conception. It is a potentiality that we have to discover within us and progressively develop or destroy through our confrontation with the different experiences of suffering that will meet us through our life.